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Corporate prayer needed to reach nation’s inner cities, Galvan says

AUSTIN, Texas (BP)–Corporate prayer is one of the most important keys to reaching the inner city for Christ, said David Galvan at the annual conference of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“We have not seen America’s cities experience a mighty sovereign-led move of God because prayer has not been a priority,” Galvan said March 3 at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. Galvan, second vice president of the SBC from 1997-98, has been the pastor of an inner-city church, Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Garland, Texas, since 1981.
Galvan challenged conferees to follow the example of the Apostle Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-20) as a model for capturing the nation’s urban populations for Christ in the next millennium. Paul’s three-pronged strategy, Galvan explained, focused on seeking out people with whom to share the gospel, utilizing the gifts and talents God provided to minister to people’s needs, and depending upon the power of corporate prayer.
“Effectiveness in outreach, especially in the inner cities, demands an approach that chooses to go where the people are,” Galvan said. To say, “We will minister here, but will live over there,” is an ineffective approach to ministry, he added.
Ministering where the people are builds understanding, fortifies relationships, communicates love and concern, counters superiority and establishes identification, Galvan said. “It communicates the idea that you are available.” He said seeking out believers requires surveys and canvassing neighborhoods, and it is confrontational and apologetic in approach.
As cities wrestle with ways of keeping downtown areas alive, inner-city ministries face a new challenge of reaching the yuppies, intellectuals, and professionals attracted to the revitalized shopping areas and neighborhoods, Galvan added. These are “the kind that are not looking for a handout, but might in fact be looking for a write-off.” They want to know if God can do anything for them, Galvan said. Ministries which touch these individuals will take place in symposiums, university halls and auditoriums, rather than stereotypical venues for inner-city ministry, he said.
Effective outreach will also follow Paul’s pattern of utilizing even “handkerchiefs and aprons” — elements of his secular work attire — to reach people for Christ, Galvan said. “Talents, skills, experience, equipment … some we were born with, some we were trained in … yet they can be used as we surrender them to God that the city might be reached for Christ,” he said.
The rescue mission, the soup kitchen, the clothes closet are still necessary for inner-city outreach, “however, these are not the only ‘aprons and handkerchiefs’ available. God has given the people of God many resources that can be used to minister,” Galvan said. Mechanics, computer analysts, lawyers, doctors, psychologists, literacy experts, musicians and more can be utilized by God, if only available, he said.
“Can God utilize what you use in your livelihood to share with others in the power of the Holy Spirit?” Galvan asked.
Challenging Christians to pray for the cities, Galvan reminded those attending the conference that the mission-sending New Testament church at Antioch was a praying church. “What happened in Ephesus was the direct result of a sovereign God honoring the prayer of Paul and his church,” he said.
In his own church, “We began to pray every day [at] 6 a.m. four years ago, Feb. 8,” he said. “Ministry has never been the same.
“What does this have to do with reaching the inner city for Christ?” Galvan asked. To overcome the dark and powerful spiritual forces at work in the inner city requires God’s intervention, he said. “The spiritual walls that must come down, can come down only by the power of God.”

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  • King Sanders